Basketball Equality, Same Sex Marriage and other Media Minefields… Jason Collins, the first active (male) pro sports athlete to come out, pushes us to face our feelings about so much more than sports and sexuality…

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dominique DiPrima
I’ve been meaning to sit down and blog about marriage equality for months. It is a topic I’ve had a definite opinion about since back in 1997 when I did a radio show on same-sex marriage and broadcast live from the gay mecca of West Hollywood. It was a festive show, complete with on air nuptials and free wedding cake for all. I almost got fired for doing that broadcast, after conservative Christian crusaders inundated the radio station with calls for me to be dismissed. Some listeners felt that I was out of the mainstream of African American opinion on the subject and did not deserve to represent us on the mic.

As I often do, I put people on the air who blasted me for my opinion, even as they accused me of suppressing it. It’s one of the basic ironies of talk radio. And I’m okay with it. I would have given Chris Broussard airtime, to share his view that gay people cannot be Christian even though I disagree with him 100%.

I knew exactly what former Packers Safety Leroy Butler was facing when he got axed from a speaking gig for his tweet in support of Jason Collins. And I guess it is the Jason Collins story that is finally prompting me to sit down and focus on this topic. I’m a little overwhelmed as I write because the subject is a true media minefield. So let me break down the issues, as I see them, one at a time.

1) Is Jason Collins a hero? He risked losing a lucrative NBA career and being rejected by his family and friends to tell the truth about who he is. I think that is heroic (even if there was a publicist somewhere urging him to be the first so he could go from “Jason who?” to headline overnight.) I give him credit for making life easier for other folks, especially young people who are struggling with the issues of their own sexual orientation, for blazing a trail
2) Are we sick of this story? I’m not. But I respect folks who are. I get it. The pack mentality of the media is off-putting. Is Collins the only, or even the most important hero of May 2013? Nope. Is there a kid somewhere sacrificing to feed his baby sister that is getting no media attention at all? Without a doubt.
3) Why does he have to tell us? I don’t announce that I’m straight! Sounds funny and right on when people say it, but…heterosexuals are the dominant group in this society. You are assumed to be straight unless proven (or rumored) otherwise. In other words you would face no penalty for announcing your sexuality, or even what you did with your girlfriend last night. Collins did get a lot of support and kudos, but it wasn’t guaranteed. And he has also taken a lot of flak. He had to tell us to break down a barrier and help the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, Bisexual) community in this country to take a step forward.
4) Why does it have to be a Black guy? I don’t know. But I’m going with this guess. We tend to be more courageous in breaking new ground for human rights and equality. I get that people are not feeling the associations with the feminization or emasculation of the Black man. Or maybe they are just tired of us being the poster boys for everything under the sun. But let’s just go with the explanation that is supported by history, the one that best serves us – we are brave.
5) Why aren’t we giving credit to Brittney Griner the WNBA #1 draft pick who came out two weeks ago? Some say its sexism. But it’s probably because most men are much less threatened by lesbians, than by gay men, and the world of sports (especially sports journalism) is still mostly a man’s world.
6) What does this have to do with marriage equality? The time is now. Public opinion has changed. People are ready for this to be a non-issue. Interestingly enough the gap in public opinion is more generational than racial. People over 40 are still much more likely to be homophobic, regardless of race or religion. Jason Collins is just another indicator that this is the moment in history when we stop legal and institutional discrimination against LGBT people. Changing attitudes and behavior takes longer (look at the lingering legacy of racism,) but it’s time to change what can be changed overnight, laws and policies.
7) Why does it have to be marriage? Couldn’t they call it something else? As a religious matter, the issue of whether or not same sex marriage is permitted is still up to each church. Nothing will change that. But as a nation we cannot pick and choose which laws apply to which people and which groups will not be given the same rights as others. If we say gay people cannot get marriage licenses, should that also extend to drivers licenses, hunting licenses or medical licenses? Either the government has to get out of the marriage business (which is impossible since this particular spiritual union has legal and financial implications that are regulated by state and federal laws,) or we have to extend the exact same rights to all citizens. Period.
8) Why do I care? I don’t. Don’t get me wrong I do care about equal rights under the law for all people. And I am thrilled to see us as a nation moving beyond homophobia and hate! But is same sex marriage on the top of my list of priorities? Not at all. Still, I had to write this because it seems to be top of mind for many people who are not directly impacted by it. Maybe a better question is: why do you care? If you don’t like it, don’t choose it. You are still free to worship as you see fit, teach your children as you choose and avoid your (gay) cousins wedding. Maybe it’s time to let it go and spend your energy feeding some hungry children or volunteering to read to kids at a local school – I’m just saying…

This blog is dedicated to my godmother, the late Audre Lorde the pioneering Black lesbian poet. It is dedicated to my sister Shani Baraka, who inspired many young women to strive for greatness, and be themselves. She died too soon. It is dedicated to my stepfather Alan Marlowe, who loved me unconditionally before he succumbed to lung cancer accelerated by HIV. It is a thank you to my dear (late) friend Eric Nash (AKA “Miss Kane”) who would never have let me stay engaged to Jason Collins cause his “gaydar” would have been beeping like crazy. This is a testament to my late godfather Roberto Clemente who fought for love and respect for all people of good character regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation. And it is for you, for your lesbian auntie and your flamboyant choir director. It’s for your boyfriend on the down low and your favorite stylist. It’s for the Black superstar who we keep shoving back in the closet. If we, Black America, have a special issue with the LGBT community, it’s time to take the blinders off, come out of denial and practice unconditional acceptance. It’s time for us to leave the judgment to God almighty, and practice brotherhood (& sisterhood) right here, right now. It’s time to choose love. One Love.

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There are currently 4 Comments on Basketball Equality, Same Sex Marriage and other Media Minefields… Jason Collins, the first active (male) pro sports athlete to come out, pushes us to face our feelings about so much more than sports and sexuality…. Perhaps you would like to add one of your own?

  1. “Is Jason Collins a hero? He risked losing a lucrative NBA career and being rejected by his family and friends to tell the truth about who he is.”

    First off he’s a veteran who has been in the league for twelve years, since 07 has been with 5 teams. The guy is a journeyman on his way OUT OF THE LEAGUE! Where is the risk in that?! Come out as a rookie or in your Prime then talk to me about risk! He might not be in the league next season.

  2. The fact that this homo agenda has gained momentum and seemingly more widespread acceptance in this country is not AT ALL surprising to me. As you know.our country was founded in iniquity and hypocrisy where DIVINE law and the PRINCIPLES of righteousness are concerned. So it comes as no surprise that this SIN is being legislatively forced on ALL people. The homo lifestyle CHOICE has a legacy and deep history among caucasian people(see Cretan history) and they being the dominate culture are in a position to push this sin into seeming acceptance though the whole concept of homo”sexuality” is really impossible. You see sexuality can not exist or be DEFINED between the sex organ and digestive(i.e. mouth or anus..Fecal intecourse or PAP ingestion) system but under this global white supremacist dynamic we should expect that even natural law should be turned upside down and inside out. You homo’s and sympathizers love to remove morality from this equation and argue that it’s between two consenting adults and isn’t hurting anyone and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah! Well if morality is out then ANYTHING goes like INCEST. What’s WRONG with two consenting adult blood relatives (your father and you maybe,your son and you??? think of the possibilities!!!) expressing love through sex??? after all their not HURTING anyone!!!! In conclusion,this subject of homo agenda and lifestyle choice is certainly the social issue Du jour POLITICALLY and rightfully so because in the arena of MORALITY (which is the essence of hue-man kinds sense of right and wrong and therefor it’s laws) it is in deed a NON-ISSUE.

  3. Whatever the sexual orientation of the Jason Collins, is his business. However, I feel he is used this heightened social issue of homosexuality to become relevant in the media. I feel that he in “coming out” the a national magazine at a time where is basketball career is diminishing is a STUNT. YES, he might be gay, but now he will use this controversy as an excuse for his professional treatment in the near future. For example, the minute is contract is not renewed, or another team doesn’t pick him up to play, this now becomes a GAY issue instead of what it is. Whether this man is gay or not, he does not produce numbers! As a player, he sucks. But I have no doubt in my mind that he knows this, and that this stunt was an attempt to obtain 5 minutes of fame and collecting a little bit more money with interviews. Gay or not, his professional career is coming to an end. I just wish that people wouldn’t blame his sexual orientation for the death of his career.

  4. Is Jason Collins a hero? No, he is a White gay Community stooge. If you want to look at heroism in Black sports, there are myriad and better examples. If you want to talk about heroism in Black gay sports, you need to give credit where credit was due: Mr. Glenn Burke of the Dodgers was “out” enough for his own tastes. His teammates knew and didn’t care. And he had true friends who loved and supported him. Yet, he didn’t call himself a “hero”: the definition of a hero. Finally, Dominique, on the topic of the State’s budget; being Black and Republican or gay or both; and cleaning up (sweeping) your own front porch (budget deficit) first: All I have to say is that I’d love to run for office, but I have no natural constituency. People are stuck on stupid, thinking that there’s just one way. And that if I’m a Republican I have to be anti-poor or anti-equal opportunity. Or that it I’m gay, I have to be pro-gay marriage and “anything goes”. The very same people who preach inclusiveness are the same ones who are lining their pockets, feasting at the trough in the service of the Party Line. I’d rather that you pay me to sweep your front porch, than sweep my own for free. There’s a difference between “choice” and “Chaos”. My political and economic consultancy, “Colorful People Takin’ Care of Business” website should be up and running by the middle of summer. Don’t follow me, but visit me– and my jacked-up porch full of Colored people with good ideas — at that time.

    — Darrell from Long Beach.